Friday, November 21, 2014

Republic of letters


Had a really wonderful conver- sation this afternoon with one of the students from the Intro to Religious Studies class I guest lectured in on Monday. It was in a Miyazaki Hayao-themed coffee shop on Daxuelu 大学路 whose ground floor had what appeared to be a vast selection of postcards for sale. We talked for two and a half hours - from rational choice theory to Buddhist merit-making to Nietzsche to whether people can live without hope in something supernatural, and a good many points in between.

I think it was a bit of what Jeff Stout calls an experience of "the adolescent sublime" for both of us. He's never had a conversation in which a professor asks after his view of things, or talks about philosophy and Buddhism and sociology - not to mention the Church of Elvis and the
films of Miyazaki. Or admits there are things he doesn't know. And I've gone without the sustenance of intense conversation with young minds (that sounds creepy, I don't mean it that way) for a long time. We're going to organize a reading/discussion group in the Spring!

On the way out we noticed that the ground floor display was actually a calendar - 365 slots - and the contents were cards that people had written, together and to each other, for future delivery. Cheesy but charming, especially in the Miyazaki ambience. Giddy with having abided together in the big questions we decided to do it too. On 21 Nov 2015 a card will be sent to him from me (about 缘分), and another to me from him... I wonder what it will say! (I told him to write part of in Chinese.)

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